Poetic Healing & Portmanteau Phrasing

Huglen, Mark MHuglen at mail.crk.umn.edu
Thu Nov 22 10:19:06 EST 2001


Portmanteau phrasing is getting interesting . . .

I am working on a manuscript (of which I will spare you the details) with
another person, Basil Clark, called Poetic Healing:  A Vietnam Veteran's
Journey from a Communication Perspective.  It's a poetic healing of this
world (as opposed to above the fray).  During Vietnam, Basil was stuck in an
ambush and grenades exploded.  He was left with constant ringing in the
ears.  Basil articulates his postwar experiences in a series of short
stories, plays, and poems.  The book is comprised of the presentation of
poetry and critical commentary--it has a lot to do with the questioning of
God, patriotism, and sanity; contemplations of suicide; and communication in
human relationships.

Anyway, Basil works with word play . . . take a look at what the Dictionary
of Literary Terms would call an "alter" or "pattern" poem (An alter or
pattern poem is a construction that has an arrangement of words in the
pattern of the subject):

Frank did a good job as a soldier 
Until the day the bullet hit his chest. 
Carson did okay, he only lost one leg. 
Kevin died even though the medics did their best.

Wasted lives it seems
Are ever in my dreams.
Remembering brings pain,
Sends inner rain.

After reading the first letters of each line down (FUCK WARS), you might be
interested in another kind of word play:  "Enter Vietnam" / "manteiV evaeL."
This is what might be called an "amphisbaenic" rhyme.  The "amphisbaenic"
rhyme is a backward phrase or verse and  named after an ancient serpent said
to have a head at each direction (DLT, page 9).  In the bigger picture, I
see Enter Vietnam and manteiV evaeL as symbolic of different orientations,
of which both contain a particular cluster of terms for order.

But here, look at this . . . look at Enter Vietnam / manteiV evaeL as a
portmanteau phrase.  What do you see?

Mark Huglen




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